Tuesday, September 28, 2010

postheadericon Kinabatangan's clouded leopards reveal themselves

Sunda clouded leopards recently photographed in the 
Kinabatangan Wildife Sanctaury
After a rather slow start, the number of wild cat photo captures from the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary and surrounding forests are starting to mount up.  Our focal species, the Sunda clouded leopard, appears to have been particularly busy along Sabah’s largest river since I last wrote, and we have now collected nine photo captures, of five separate events. Careful observation of the photos (see left) reveals that so far we have recorded 1 male, and two females.

A sliver of forest adjacent to the Kinabatangan river. Such narrow 
strips of riparian forest may act as corridors for threatened 
species such as Bornean felids, and provide essential linkages 
for otherwise fragmented blocks of forest
The female clouded leopards were snapped close to the banks of Danau Tongog, a beautiful oxbow lake to the west of our study area. Both individuals were photographed approximately 1 km apart, walking along a well-worn forest trail that encircles the lake, which is frequently used by staff and tourists of the nearby community-run tourist facility, the Tongog Ecocamp. These photo-captures lend further support to our theory that existing trails, even those regularly frequented by people, are one of the best locations to detect Sunda clouded leopards with camera traps.

One of these females, CLF1, was also photographed moving through a relatively narrow band (ca. 100 m wide) of riparian forest in Lot 5, which is sandwiched between the river and the surrounding oil palm plantations. This location is close to where we previously observed a flat-headed cat whilst spotlighting (detailed in Hearn et al 2010), and thus provides some of the first evidence that such riparian  forest buffers may be utilised by Bornean felids, and may thus provide essential connectivity between otherwise isolated forest fragments along the Kinabatangan.  The potential role of forest corridors as a tool for Bornean carnivore conservation is something that we aim to explore further during our new project, the Kinabatangan Carnivore Programme.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

postheadericon Two more cat photos!!

Our second flat-headed cat photo. Frustratingly, the other camera failed to
pick up the cat.

Great news... we’ve got two more wild cat photos from the Kinabatangan!  We’re still busy surveying the forest and cutting trails in the second of our two sub areas, and so we’ve only found the time to check the cameras once so far, but members of our team (volunteers from Cardiff University) checked one of the camera sites yesterday and discovered two more cat photos... a leopard cat and yet another flat-headed cat!
Interestingly, both of the new cat photos were from the very same site that we had previously photo-captured the flat-headed – an area of riverine forest, close to the main river, in one of the of the region’s larger forest fragments: Lot 5.  This bodes well for our planned radio-tracking project (more on this later) as this could well be an excellent site to deploy a live trap. The photo is not ideal, so it is difficult to determine the sex or whether if it is the same individual as the previous photo.  

Alas, no Sunda clouded leopard so far, but as I say we’ve only checked the camera once so far, so fingers crossed.

A leopard cat.  This adaptable species is thought to respond well to habitat disturbance,
 and unlike the other 4 Bornean felids can be found residing in oil palm plantations.
It's a little surprising then, that this is our first photo of this species - but again it is early days. 
The Bornean wild cat Team. Right to left: Andy (tingi) Harrison
(volunteer from Cardiff Univ.), Gilmoore (Gil) Bolongon, Saya (me), and Jasmi (Jasz) Joroh.